I have heard in the past - as I'm sure have you - reports of elements from within several religious orders clashing with Vatican authorities over issues dealing with Church teachings and tradition. It has been the policy of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to counsel those individuals who publicly oppose or stray from Church teachings, and, after a series of initiatives, apply measures that may include defrocking and excommunication. Not all of those who were called heretics or prevaricators while alive retained those pejorative titles posthumously. After the death of some of these agitators, their names and standing were fully restored. Others, however, endured the penalty of excommunication.
Matthew Fox (Defrocked and ousted)
Matthew Fox was a former Dominican priest who received his religious education (all the way up to his PhD.) from Catholic institutions. In the 1970's he developed a type of spirituality called Creation Spirituality that was pantheistic in nature, and replaced the term "original sin" with "original blessing." He calls himself a feminist theologian, and is currently a member of the Anglican Church where he conducts "techno-masses." Read interview. Mathew Fox is no fan of Pope Benedict, since it was Cardinal Ratzinger who - as Prefect of Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - tossed him out in 1993 for his heretical unorthodoxy. In 2005 Matthew Fox reenacted the famous protestation of Martin Luther when he nailed his own 95 Theses just outside the door of Castle Church in Wittenburg, Germany. Fox has always maintained that his condemned views have always been in the tradition of the mysticism of medieval visionaries Hildegard of Bingen, Thomas Aquinas, Meister Eckhart and Nicholas of Cusa.
Anthony de Mello, S.J. (Works condemned)
Anthony de Mello was a Jesuit priest born in Bombay, India in 1931. Ecumenicalism is the word that best describes the works of Father de Mello, unless of coarse you dislike his convictions, then "heretic" might be to your suiting. Father de Mello drew from many religious traditions, primarily from Eastern faiths, and combined tenets from those Eastern traditions with Christian beliefs. In 1998, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith condemned his works for “relativizing” faith and thus leading to “religious indifferentism.” The odd thing about this condemnation is that it came 11 years after de Mello's death, which means he had no way of defending himself from the charges that were brought against him. Father de Mello's books have since been accompanied with the insertion of a caution: “The books of Father Anthony de Mello were written in a multi-religious context to help the followers of other religions, agnostics and atheists in their spiritual search, and they were not intended by the author as manuals of instruction of the Catholic faithful in Christian doctrine or dogma.”
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (Censured)
Born on May 1, 1881 Teilhard de Chardin was a French Jesuit who was trained as a paleontologist and as a geologist. Always fascinated by the evolution of life on earth, Chardin proposed that human biological evolution not only had taken place here on earth, but that it was also something sacred and not just a mere biological process. Because of these assertions, he was forbidden to teach and his works censured by his superiors. To Chardin, life began on this planet with simple quotidian structures and over time complexified until the emergence of consciousness. Chardin also saw Jesus Christ as the most perfectly evolved human being. In Christ, he saw matter and the spirit of God definitively combined but not in a pantheistic context. He also did not subscribe completely to the doctrine of Original Sin. Chardin's censure was lifted posthumously, and his books an essays were subsequently published to the delight of many within the Catholic Church. In a speech given sometime in the late 1990's, even Pope John Paul II quoted from them.
Was the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith a bit heavy handed when dealing with these folks? Despite the wavering on Original Sin, Chardin's spirituality is profoundly beautiful and has enjoyed enthusiastic approbation among very conservative Catholics since their publication. Supporters of Anthony de Mello argue that his condemnation is completely unjustified since 1) they were never meant to be used as instructions of Church dogma or tradition, and 2) he is deceased and unable to defend himself from the accusations leveled against him by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Mathew Fox's "The Coming of the Cosmic Christ" was recommended to me by a Jesuit with traditional lineaments and in good standing with the Church. Although one must admit, Matthew Fox's views at times can be both whimsical and convoluted. He comes across as some one who is both unstable and angry over his removal. What to make of all this?
Now, here is a short list of the demented and the absurd who have been excommunicated in recent times. IMHO, no one can argue that this type of action was unmerited:
1) Sinéad O'Connor - Ordination in a schismatic church, the Palmarian Catholic Church.
2) Fidel Castro - Dictator; proponent of communism.
3) Sister Mary Theresa Dionne and five other nuns of Our Lady of Charity and Refuge in Hot Springs, Arkansas - Believe their founder is the reincarnated Virgin Mary.
4) Some members of the Irish Republican Army
5) Ed Cachia - Canadian priest. Started a new church.
6) Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre - Apposed Vatican II reform. Defied Pope John Paul II and consecrated four bishops.
7) Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo - A whole slew of crap.